Press Release: Texas Courthouses Ill-Equipped to Handle Constitutionally Required Judicial Bypass Process for Minors

 

March 24, 2015

For media interviews, contact: Susan Hays, (214) 557-4819
For additional information and copy of survey, contact: Tina Hester, (512) 450-4899, [email protected]

Survey Results: Texas Courthouses Ill-Equipped to Handle Constitutionally Required Judicial Bypass Process for Minors

Pregnant minors in Texas may apply for a “judicial bypass” as an alternative to involving a parent or legal guardian in their decision to have an abortion. By law, district clerk’s offices must help minors with this constitutionally required process. Jane’s Due Process (JDP) conducted a telephone survey of district clerk’s offices in 81 counties and found that in only 26 percent could the clerk’s office supply correct information about the 15-year-old state law.

In 43 percent of the counties, employees provided blatant misinformation, denying the existence of the legal procedure or incorrectly instructing minors that they must first obtain legal representation. In 37 percent of the counties, clerk staff claimed the county did not handle judicial bypass or have the necessary forms to file an application, in effect refusing to provide minors with access to the bypass process.

“The judicial bypass process is in place as a safety net for abused and neglected teens,” said Susan Hays, Jane’s Due Process legal advisor. “It is beyond disturbing that so many courthouses were either unprepared or unwilling to assist minors in seeking their constitutional rights to bodily autonomy.”

Misinformation included telling the caller she had to pay a filing fee; claiming that the office did not have the forms and did not process the applications; and insisting that the minor would have to hire an attorney to represent her before applying. One clerk announced she was an “advocate for crisis pregnancy centers” and wanted to meet with the minor in person after work. Other clerks simply told the caller to “pick up the phone and call a lawyer.” Some abruptly hung up the phone.

“The survey shows that requiring a teen to file a judicial bypass application in her home county not only jeopardizes her confidentiality, courthouse staff may mislead her to believe that she has no right to seek legal help,” Hays said.

Jane’s Due Process is a statewide non-profit formed shortly after Texas’ parental involvement law went into effect in 2000. JDP assists minors with information on emancipation, confidential family planning services, judicial bypass and Title IX issues surrounding pregnant and parenting teens.

P.O. Box 685137 Austin, TX 78768-5137 // (512) 444.7891 // www.janesdueprocess.org
LEGAL HOTLINE: (866) www-jane OR (866) 999-5263